that’s the way I like it…

It’s just been one of those days… one of those good days when all is right with the world, or at least a little piece of it, for a few minutes, and I’m happy at work on something that’s new and exciting. Which means my brain is full of that new world, teasing out the nuances, and all other subjects just seem to glance off, stones skipping over the surface.

Somewhere in all of that process, there’s the hope that the new stuff will resonate with readers, which of course, leads back to the curiosity of what makes them buy a book. I know. We just discussed this.

But this time… it’s a poll.

I know, I know. Completely original idea.

But hey! It’s easy! It shows a running total! It coordinates with the colors of the blog! What’s not to love?

(I am not guaranteeing that this thing will actually work or that you won’t break the entire internet as soon as you click “cast your vote.” Seriously. If you click and your computer doesn’t explode, we’ll count that as a success.)

A book buying poll:

So, tell me please, what book did you buy this year that was a new-to-you author? And if you want to tell… how did you find them?

And… who have you been recommending to others?

43 thoughts on “that’s the way I like it…

  1. toni

    Aw, thanks, Kathy! (And William!)

    I am a total poll virgin (as a creator), so there are probably some other choices I should have included. Y’all feel welcome to write them in.

    Also, I didn’t include covers and ads and book trailers and such, because I thought that would make an interesting marketing poll — to find out what has actually worked to get your attention for a book. The problem with that is, some things are repeated often, but don’t get noticed as much by the conscious mind, so we may not be able to fairly measure these things with a poll. But we might get some idea of what readers thought.

  2. Zoe Sharp

    It worked, Toni! I posted my vote and didn’t crash the Internet … just the whole of the northwestern UK.

    I will very often buy a book by a new author I’ve met at a convention and enjoyed talking to, or enjoyed hearing them speak on a panel. There are so many out there, it’s often hard to make a choice. I was introduced to Dusty’s books this way, after we did a couple of joint signings on my tour last year. Love the Jack Keller character!

    Other new-to-me authors from last year? Stuart Pawson. His Yorkshire-set DI Charlie Priest series is very wittily written and how can you resist titles like Limestone Cowboy and Grief Encounters?

    Peter Temple. I actually read The Broken Shore before it won the CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger, and was blown away by his voice.

    I have to admit I haven’t yet read some of my fellow ‘Rati – I may have to wait for my next US visit to get hold of some – but ask me the same question this time next year, and I can guarantee they’ll be on the list.

  3. toni

    Wow, I didn’t know I had powers all the way to northwestern UK. I think I need to get a shirt with a logo on it.

    Those sound like great choices, Zoe. Yours was my first new-to-me author this year, I think. I did buy several from authors I enjoyed and there are a couple of authors who will be attending LCC and I want to buy from them there, to have an autographed copy.

  4. cj lyons

    For once I was in the majority–voice is what gets me.

    A really cool poll (don’t know how you’d do it, but with your newly-discovered super-pollster powers I’m sure you could!) would be how writers and readers differ in their book-buying decisions.

    Most non-writers (yeah, I say it like it’s some kind of disease, like being a non-typhoid carrier, lol!) read differently than writers do and I suspect they make their buying decisions differently as well….

    It’d be cool to find out!

  5. billie

    The teacher of a writing class I took a few weeks back listened to my pages and immediately went and pulled a novel off her bookshelf – Laurie R. King’s Folly – and told me to take it home with me and read it.

    I’d never heard of the author or the book, but it was very good – suspenseful, intriguing, psychological, a bit of a mystery, and just very compelling in voice and language.

    Now that I think of it, it was partly reading that novel that helped trigger my deep dive into second book ms edits last weekend/week. She takes all the elements of a good story and puts them together in such a balanced, effective way. I’ve already ordered another of her stand-alones that centers around a minor character in Folly. I love when an intriguing minor character gets his/her own book!

    Love the poll feature, Toni – nothing exploded. πŸ™‚

  6. Lois

    For the last several years the trigger for buying a new author has been that I heard them speak at a convention and liked what they said or how they said it, AND their book is in some form of paperback. I don’t tend to buy hardbacks until someone has gotten into my group of favorite authors – if I can’t wait for a paperback, I will read the hardback from the library. I put your release date on my calendar after LCC last year and enjoyed Bobbie Faye as much as I thought I would.

    Before this it was a combination of longevity – so I would have a new series to dive into, and recommendations on DorothyL.

    And before I joined DorothyL (late 1997) but after discovering Sisters in Crime, it was choosing from their catalog.

  7. Alexandra Sokoloff

    First draw for me is the cover – is it spooky? Then I pick it up. (so, genre). Now that I have it in my hand I always go for concept – is it a story that I can see going someplace dark and psychologically interesting? Okay, you’ve got me. And then I read the first few pages for voice and to see if the pace is going to work for me. If I get hooked in the first chapter, you’ve got a sale.

    But just like everyone else here, I take recommendations very seriously and I often buy books after meeting authors or hearing them speak.

  8. J.D. Rhoades

    There probably should be a button for “all of the above” because all of those have motivated me at some time or another.

    New to me this year? Hmm…I’m just now working through the last of the Christmas books, so in Jan/Feb, I haven’t really read anyone new to me..oh, except Brett. And yep, I’ve definitely been recommending him, along with all the other ‘rati, including you, dear.

    In fact, I think I’ll take Bobbie Faye with me when I go pick up the kids and lend it to my mom (which I always do with the proviso that she has to BUY the next one, so Alex, you got at least one sale coming up this week).

    other than my comrades here, the writers I’ve been recommending most are Cornelia Read, Lori G. Armstrong, and Anthony Neil Smith.

  9. Tamar Bihari

    I’m incredibly fussy about voice. I can forgive just about anything else, but if the voice bugs, I have trouble getting through an otherwise well constructed book. So I read reviews and listen to recommendations and make lists, but then I check out the first chapter. If Amazon doesn’t have that “look inside” feature, I’ll seek out the author’s website and look for an excerpt there. Or stand in a bookstore and read, but that’s harder, since I usually have to cope with an impatient spouse and restless son. (Which is why I try to have my lists made up ahead of time, or just order books online.)

    New-to-me authors in the past year include Peter Blauner. His book SLIPPING INTO DARKNESS caught my eye on the new books shelf at the library, then after I brought the book home, I realized that I’d heard about him on Sarah Weinman’s blog. I loved the book. I love his beautiful voice and his compassionately written, layered characters.

    In other genres: Justine Larbalestier (YA fantasy), Sarah Monette (fantasy), Elizabeth Hoyt & Laura Lee Guhrke (historical romance).

  10. D.A. Davenport

    I heard of all my new authors through forums and blogs. I am knee deep in my first J.D. Rhoades, The Devil’s Right Hand and am loving it! Also am reading The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey and have John Chercover’s Big City, Bad Blood is next to read, both of whom I discovered on The Outfit Collective. Sakey is a keeper as well!

  11. Dana King

    I had to go with None of the Above, as most of the new writers I read are chosen for me by the web site I write reviews for. When I select a new writer, it’s usually due to referrals, often from blogs such as Murderati, The Outfit, or from someone on the Crimespace site.

    Who do I recommend? Of newer writers, Declan Hughes and Michael Koryta usually show up.

  12. Terri Molina

    *waves* Hi Toni!

    Most of the ‘new to me’ authors I’ve been reading of late have been because I’ve “met” them or interacted with them online. I continue to read them because they didn’t disappoint with their books (even the first time authors). And I always recommend the books I’ve read to the people I know love a good book.


  13. Stephen Blackmoore

    I voted for Voice, and usually that’s what will pull me in. Lately, though I’ve been going off of recommendations, but then most of the people doing the recommending seem to have similar tastes, so it all works out.

  14. JT Ellison

    I’ve obviously spent a great deal of time trying to raise the profiles of thirteen new authors in particular over the past year (see today’s Chicago Tribune for a review of our anthology!!), but I’m constantly “discovering” new to me writers. Stephanie Meyers was a gem from last year, as was Megan Abbott, Emily Benedek, Laura Benedict, Lauren Willig, (wow, that list was all women. That’s interesting.) I’ll give you a boy just for balance — A.J. Hartley. Awesome stuff, he’s totally captured my attention with ON THE FIFTH DAY. And I’m all about the concept, with voice and plot running close second.

    Excellent post and poll, T.

  15. Mike MacLean

    One of my favorite books last year was DARK HARVEST by Norman Partridge — a violent, hard boiled horror tail with candy. I first heard about it from Duane Swierczynski’s blog, then the cover caught my eye, then I read a few pages in the store and Partridge’s voice grabbed hold of my throat. So I bought it.

    Recommendation + cool cover + voice = SOLD

  16. Fiona

    I voted for voice. Recommendations will get me to check out a book from the library, or pick up a book in the bookstore & read the first chapter, but voice gets that book to the register & home on my shelf.

    Ken Bruen’s PRIEST was my first new-to-me author purchase this year. Since then, I have been working my way through the ‘rati. I am very excited to read Alexandra’s new book. It is next on my list.

  17. toni

    CJ — LOL… with my shiny new poll-making powers, I could take over… uh… maybe the corner of the desk. I agree that it would be an interesting poll to see how non-writers buy… I suspect there wouldn’t be nearly as many write-ins for “meeting the author” maybe? Since we all try to go to cons, or show up for friends’ release parties, I think our % there is higher.

  18. toni

    Alex, yeah, you know, I was going to put covers on there and (as with blogs) I was dividing that aspect into “what got me to pick up the book” vs. “what got me to decide to buy it.” I figure there’s another poll (probably should have done both today) worth exploring that breaks down the way we hear about an author to see what’s working the most. If y’all are interested, I can do that one next Sunday.

    And I have to admit, I was torn between voice and concept. I think I have tried more new-to-me authors last year based on concept (most) and then gave their voice a chance to hold me. I went back and bought more of their books (if there were more) if the voice held me.

  19. toni

    Dusty, thank you! I’ve been handing people your book when I’m in the bookstore. When I travel, I tend to do a walk-through the aisles to make sure the books I love are still represented (and they magically turn face out when I pass by, imagine that). Thanks for passing along the book – I hope she likes it. I LOVE that people will hand it to others… I figure later on, it’ll make a difference.

    As for the “all of the above” I figured if I didn’t force the choices, that one would win by a landslide. I do think that each of those elements plays a roll, and it can change for me depending not only on my mood, but whatever it was that compelled me to buy the previous book (whether that worked or not).

  20. toni

    Billie, yay, no explosions. Yet. πŸ˜‰ And I love it when a person puts a book in my hand and insists I read it. I have a friend here who has different reading tastes than I do, and so we tend to not give each other referrals, but one time she carried the first book of a series that was outside of my normal reading preferences and stood there and INSISTED that I take the book and read it. And then she called every day to see if I had started it. It was Dorothy Dunnett’s Lyman Chronicles (you know, I think it was the second book. I started from there and read the rest). It’s a historical, lots of old world politics, and a little dense to get started, but utterly compelling. All of these (maybe 18 years?) later, I can still remember whole scenes from those books, and I have a hard time remembering whole scenes from stuff I read last year.

  21. Fran

    Voice. Me too. The book has to be able to “speak” to me all the way through.

    A new-to-me author whose voice just blew me away was Susan Hill and her Simon Serrailer series. I cannot get enough of her.

    A new-out-of-the-box author whom I’ve been recommending all over is Wendy Roberts. I found the cover of her book to be a bit too cutesy, but the her voice have me clamoring for more.

    So yeah, voice it is. But a fresh concept is a really close second!

  22. Louise Ure

    Wow, now I see the magnetic pull of polls, and why so many media sites place them front and center on their web pages. Very cool.

    Voice was my answer too, although it would have to be followed closely by “meeting the author.”

    And names new to me this year that I’ve enjoyed recommending include Linda Richards, Leighton Gage, Megan Abbott and Anne Argula. Great examples of a unique voice in each and every one.

  23. toni

    Lois, that big THUNK you heard was me banging my head on my desk. I should have put meeting the author on there as well as format. I didn’t even think of either of those (or to distinguish blogs from referrals).

    I think it’s fantastic, though, that you check out the books from the library. Library purchases can be huge for an author, and the more a book’s requested, the better.

  24. toni

    oh, GEEZ, where is my brain? wait, don’t answer that.

    Lois, THANK YOU. That’s so very cool of you to have done and to mention. I think all of us wonder sometimes if it makes sense to go to these things when we’re far in between release dates… it’s hard to know if anyone would remember us in the busy-ness of the chaos of daily lives. Thanks!

  25. toni

    D.A. — I love that you’re picking up the books from the blogs (yay, blogs work)… but am curious if you or others who would have voted for blogs would answer something… when you read the blog, is your mind already made up that you’d buy the book based off what you’ve learned about the author on the blog site… or is it the instrument that just helps books break through the clutter and then, once you pick them up, a different criteria is used to make that final purchase decision.

  26. toni

    Dana, I’m curious… when they choose for you, do you still have some flexibility or is it a mandate that you read the ones they’ve selected?

    Tamar, I *knew* you would pick voice. πŸ˜‰

    Hi Terri, thanks for stopping by. I wish now I’d thought to put a “met the author” up there (which could have included online interaction). Of course, my entire family is wondering why “forced to buy it at the point of a gun” isn’t up there.

  27. toni

    Stephen — it completely makes sense that voice would be your choice — your brilliant blog has such a unique voice. Always cracks me up, always astute observations.

    JT, and a damned fine job you’ve done, too. (Thank you.) And folks, just wait ’til y’all see her next one.

    Mike, a “hard boiled horror tale with candy” is… wow. I’d go find that book based just on that description. Now I am very curious, because you mention recommendation + cool cover + voice. If you’d seen a referral somewhere else and the cover had sucked, would you still have picked up the book?

  28. toni

    Fiona, that’s it for me, exactly. Those other things will get me to pick up a book, but it’s voice that’ll win me over. I tend to browse through the store by picking up everything that looks remotely interesting. If I’ve heard about them somewhere, I’ll give them a shot, even with bad covers. But it’s the voice that helps me cull the stack down to an affordable pile. (My husband refers to our local book store as the $100 dollar store. It’s like crack. Without the jail time.)

  29. toni

    Fran, no worries on grammar / spelling in comment sections… I think there’s some sort of special internet dispensation. I constantly get it wrong in my hurry to get it posted.

    Hey, I’m just thrilled that people here use complete words in their comments. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat puzzling over emails from some kids which look like someone stole their vowels at gunpoint.

  30. toni

    yep, Louise, I had no idea about that, either, but wow. Great response today (thank you all).

    I so would have been a poll slut long before now.

    Which is entirely different than a pole slut.

    I wish I’d have put “meeting the author” on there. Last night, I tried to add one question (I think it was the track record one) and wiped out the whole poll and had to start over. It’s an easy widget to use, though.

  31. Allison Brennan

    Fran, I read Wendy’s book as an ARC and loved it. I can’t wait for the next one, and I agree, she has a fabulous voice.

    I think there are kinda two questions here. One, how do I discover new authors. My primary source is trusted friends (and my mom) who tell me that I’ll like something. But what keeps me coming back for more? Voice and character.

  32. Catherine

    I find the Murderati crew pretty great as a reading list. Well it’s the plan for a lot of this reading this year. So if I can find any Murderati books as paperbacks I buy mainly through my Independent bookstore,or if I can only access them through hardback I read from the existing catologue at the library…or I request them for purchase.

    New to me authors this year that I’ve bought have been JT Ellison, and I’ve recently requested a purchase of Louise Ure’s hardback book through the library.

    I was recommended books by Leigh Redhead, an Australian author who’s style has been described as Tart Noir, by my trusted Independant bookstore contact…she did forewarn with ‘it gets pretty raunchy’, which I guess makes sense with Tart Noir. I do recommend this series as long as you’re ok with blushing occasionally.

    Before my return to study I was working as a Library Assistant and used to wait to be asked before recommending anything, and would try to match someone within their borrowing patterns. I also found people liked to recommend things to me too, which broadened my reading even more. I do remember one woman being really excited at discovering Allison Brennan at my recommendation. She came back and thanked me and told me she’d then passed on that recommendation to her daughter, who was now hooked.

    I find new authors through book blogs, author blogs, and ninja visits to the book store and library. I do like pre-testing with a chapter excerpt online.

  33. Mike MacLean


    I hate to admit it, but if the cover is horrible I probably won’t pick up the book, even if someone had recommended it to me. I know it’s wrong, that I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.. yada, yada, yada. But in the store my lizard brain must take over, drawing me to shinny objects.

    It’s an instinct that’s gotten me in trouble more than a few times.

  34. Pammy D

    I fell down the ‘Self-Help’ rabbithole some years ago and was kept prisoner by ‘Do it Better, Happier, Longer, Prettier, Standing on one Foot and wearing a Tu-tu, while applying the properties of Feng-Shui’. Now that I have recovered from Self-Help, with the exception or Robertson Davies, almost EVERY author is a “new to me” author.

    I’ve obviously got some catching up to do!

    So Toni – I’ve recommended your book to a million people. I completely enjoyed ‘A Killer Year anthology’, and am now seeking out the books of the authors who contributed. I enjoyed ‘The Spellman Files’ by Lisa Lutz. Robert Crais and Harlan Coben are now staples. I know I’ll be branching out this year. Thanks for the always interesting blog.


  35. toni

    Allison, you’re right–and the two types of questions overlap to much, it would be hard to create a completely accurate poll, and part of that is due to when people actually make the choice (which is something I hadn’t fully considered for this poll).

    And I’ve been hearing the same thing about Wendy’s voice–definitely someone I’ll be checking out.

  36. toni

    Catherine — first, thank you from the Murderati group — we really cannot over-emphasize how great it is when people make requests of their libraries for purchase. And I have had that *exact* same experience when recommending Allison’s books. That’s so cool, isn’t it?

    I love the Tart Noir handle. I’m going to be very busy checking out so many great new titles mentioned here today.

  37. toni

    Mike, thank you for that–I know we all probably hedge on that truth because as authors, we realize how beyond our control some cover issues can be, and it’s hard to penalize fellow authors for something they couldn’t help. But I have to confess… if the cover is embarrassingly bad, I’ll order the book instead of walk around the store with it. I know, dumb. You cracked me up with the shiny comment. πŸ˜‰

    As someone whose books straddle genres, though, I have the cover frustration shakes sometimes. (That cover for book 2 up there is not the final cover.)(I think.) My stories are caper–lots of action, violence, craziness. They just are also humorous with a female lead. So who do you design the cover for? The crime crowd? The humor crowd? the romance crowd? Aim for something where they all overlap (because they do)? (Who buys the most?)…. I really don’t envy the art department or marketing’s job on having to figure out covers for my not-quite-fitting-anything-else genre. (We need a shelf in B & N for “crazy.”)

    Pammy, I know how you feel. Well, not the self-help well (though loved that description). I spent so many years going back to school and then in screenwriting, where my focus was scripts, I’ve spent the last two years trying to catch up. I’m never going to get there, I suspect.

  38. pari noskin taichert

    Toni,I’m coming in late. What a cool feature. Thanks for this.

    I cast my vote for voice and was really pleased and surprised that it was a deciding factor for so many today.

    A new-to-me author? I bought Julia Pomeroy’s COLD MOON HOME at Murder in the Magic City last weekend and really enjoyed it. I’m going to find her first.

    I always buy at least one new-to-me author at any con I go to.


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